For halloween, each IDEO location held a one-hour pumpkin carving competition. I thought it would be interesting to see how much tech I could jam into a pumpkin within the time limit. Luckily, I had an old pneumatics kit under my desk and recently stumbled upon an incredibly simple way to get my iPhone to talk to Arduino. I was able to conceptualize, build, and program this wirelessly-controlled-pneumatic-eye-popping pumpkin in just over an hour, barely missing the deadline but experiencing how powerful these low fidelity prototyping tools could be.
Learn more after the jump…
There are a few ways to get an iPhone to talk to an Arduino, but none are as quick and simple as pairing up the mobile app TouchOSC (for Android and iOS) with Processing. The control system is practically plug and play and very minimal coding knowledge necessary to get up and running (so don’t be afraid if you’re new to the game).
This setup has been around for a few years but it hasn’t gained much traction for its potential value in low fidelity prototypes. The time investment is incredibly low compared to any other phone/Arduino strategies, serving as a great early filter for interaction concepts or realizing your wildest dreams of an iPhone controlled robo-pumpkin.
To make one thing clear: this prototyping method has a bit of ‘smoke and mirrors’ in that the smartphone doesn’t directly communicate with the Arduino, but uses a computer as a receiver and translator between the two. There are a few ways to take out the middleman but they take a bit more setup and a few more tools that would make the build lengthier.
TouchOSC is a great app for iPhone and Android that helps make this entire process incredibly easy on the interface side. The program allows you to build a basic interface via a desktop app “TouchOSC Editor”. You can compile basic interaction objects (buttons, toggles, faders, etc…) onto an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad screen which you can then easily transfer to any iOS device.
The custom TouchOSC interface creates “Open Sound Control” (OSC) signals sent via wifi that are received by an open Processing sketch on a computer. The Processing sketch then writes the signal to serial, which is transmitted wirelessly to the Arduino with a pair of Xbee Modules. The Arduino is hooked up to two air pistons powered by a bike pump and 2 liter bottle reservoir.
If any of these terms don’t make sense and/or you want to give it a shot yourself, there are a few great tutorials that go into more detail and make it easy to get started:
Sparkfun Tutorial for LED Control (doesn’t address Xbee)
MIT Robotics Class Tutorial with LED/Servo Control (with Xbee but with non-standard board)
***Note: Neither the tutorials address an accessible Xbee setup. Here is what I used:
Check out Processing and Arduino Code I used in this project here
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At IDEO we are excited about “sketching in hardware” (super-fast rough interactive prototyping). Here are some other related IDEO Labs posts: